Saturday, September 17, 2011

Why I still have hopes for Sony - eReader updates and other things

It's well documented that I like Artemis, my Sony Touch Reader. Certain features - like double-tapping an unfamiliar word - have become so engrained in my mind that I sometimes try to double-tap print words. I love that it's a touch screen, I love that I can take notes, I love that I use it as a notepad when I don't have any pens nearby, and I love that it gives me access to hundreds of free books I might otherwise not be able to get my hands on.

It's also pretty well documented that I don't really like the Kindle. I don't like Amazon's business approach, I don't like DRM, I don't like the sticky-fingers attitude Amazon adopts, and I don't like the bloated eBook prices in relation to paperbacks (a statement against all eBooks, actually, but Amazon is king of the hill in this case so they can suffer my wrath).

Glaring, glare-y Artemis
Since I bought my Artemis, the eReader world has seen a few drastic changes. At the time my model (the PRS-600 Touch Edition) came out, the Kindle 2 already had 3G internet. No wi-fi. The Nook was only a rumor. Tablets weren't being marketed as potential eReaders. And most important of all: they were expensive. My 6", internet-free, somewhat glare-y little device cost $300. Granted, it quickly paid itself off. But compared to the $150 we see today for comparable models... that's one serious price cut. The only eReaders that cost upwards of $200 until now were the tablets (which aren't really eReaders anyways), Sony's high-end 3G model, and the Kindle DX (which is still the most expensive mainstream eReader out there, bizarrely priced at $379, much higher than similar models). Basically, eReaders got a lot cheaper.

New products joined the game. The Nook is a spiffy eReader but perhaps because I'm used to Sony's interface, I couldn't quite get used to it. Particularly noteworthy is the Nook Touch, again - a  worthwhile device, but one that feels to me like a cheaper version of the Sonys (no stylus, less convenient interface, smaller, awkward page-flip buttons...). All the Nook owners I've met have been immensely satisfied (like most eReader owners). The Kobo came out as well, consistently marketed as a small-brand, slightly cheaper alternative to the other eReaders.

Then there's the Kindle 3, and though it's a good product, I personally dislike it. I don't like the structure (the bulky keyboard still seems so out of place) and I don't like Amazon's business approach. But again, technically speaking, it's an almost ideal eReader. Still problematic to share eBooks, still problematic to check eBooks out of the library, still the DRM thing... but if none of these things bother you (and they don't seem to bother most people...) then the Kindle is a satisfactory plug-and-play eReader. Meanwhile, there are the tablets (any of 'em), which aren't actually eReaders, but a lot of people use them for that purpose.

All this time, people laughed at me. "You have a Sony?" a wannabe eReader developer mocked me a year ago (it should be noted that his product never actually materialized in the market... and probably won't). A colleague with a Nook teased me as well: "No internet, glare, and super expensive... boy, were you gypped!" All along, I defended my choice and Sony as well, wondering why they took such a lackluster approach to their marketing. It's lazy marketing, pure and simple - nobody ever even heard about the price cuts or about the new models. Why would they? Kindle! Nook! Kobo! Overpriced and lacking internet, the Sonys just couldn't compete.

The new Sony Reader Wi-Fi - drool-worthy
But holy cow does this new Sony model bring it. I mean, bring it. Glareless touchscreen (but stylus included, unlike the Nook), wi-fi, ePub-friendly, eBookstore access and library check-out access. At the end of the day I bought Artemis for the library option, for the ability to check books out straight to my Reader without having to be in the same county/country as the library. It's been Artemis' most wonderful asset. Being able to check books out directly through the wi-fi--that's a drool-worthy notion in its own right; toss in the ability to use Wikipedia on any word or phrase and I'm halfway to my wallet.

So, I still have hopes for Sony. The Reader Wi-Fi (as it's called) looks awesome and I can't wait to play with it once it comes out. The only real downside is that my Reader is still wonderfully alive and kicking at 2 years of age; I somehow don't think Artemis will be as excited by the Reader Wi-Fi as I am.


  1. While I love my Nook you just kindled in me an intense desire for a Sony (thanks soo much!) I love the idea of being able to take notes on my ereader and especially the convenience of being able to download library book directly on to it.

  2. I've been drooling over e-readers for a few years now, and have had a "soft spot" for the Sony products because Sony's been at it for longer than just about anyone else, plus they made the decision a while back (I think before the B&N Nook came out) to support the ePub format. They've remained committed to their e-reader product line even as the varieties of Kindle and Nook have dominated the market.

    After reading your post, I *had* to jump over to the Sony site and have a look. Once I found it on the US page, I was SO PSYCHED to find a price of $149.99! Put it next to the newest Nook (the Simple Touch, which also looks pretty neat), and at that price point, with the wi-fi, this new Sony can definitely compete. I'm sure the higher prices of the Sonys have been an issue, so seeing a price comparable to the latest Nook and Kindle was a great surprise.

    I told my husband (a non-reader) about it and said it's only $149. He said I can buy it if I get rid of 149 books. He drives a hard bargain, but I'm seriously considering it! Thanks for the heads up on this, I'll be watching for it! :-)

  3. Artemis is going to get jealous if you aren't careful ;) I like my Kindle 3 even though the keyboard is clunky and I don't like Amazon. the new Sony is quite nice looking, especially the red one.

  4. I've been thinking about acquiring an eReader for a couple of months now, and this post really opened my eyes to the benefits of owning one. :)

  5. I have a Sony 650 and love it. I have a new wifi on order for a present. Apart from wifi the main price point difference is construction. My 650 is a metal case, the new T series is a plastic case.


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